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Bid on school project rejected by school board


Grading an electrical company's performance as unsatisfactory on a middle school project this year, the county school system has rejected the company's attempt to secure another job, a bid that was $222,000 lower than that of the only other contractor submitting a proposal.

The action at Wednesday night's school board meeting brought a protest from the rejected bidder, Baltimore-based Elco Electric Inc., which asked the school board to reconsider its award of the contract for work at Glendale Elementary School to Primo Electric Inc. of Annapolis.

Primo bid $996,000 and Elco bid $774,000 for the job at Glendale Elementary in Glen Burnie, which includes new power and lighting systems, and installation of fire alarm and security systems.

In a letter to Elco, the school system said the company's "responsibility was in question based upon your performance at Brooklyn Park Middle School." According to the system purchasing officer's recommendation, Elco failed to complete its job as electrical contractor on the new middle school by a July 20 deadline.

Greg Nourse, budget director for the county schools, said the opening of Brooklyn Park Middle was delayed until Sept. 5 because the electrical work hadn't been completed.

"Rather than having to go through the same problems, we would rather pay the additional money and not have those problems at Glendale," he said.

The company also did not install specified materials at Brooklyn Park and used materials that cost less without crediting the savings back to the school system, Deborah S. Grot, the purchasing officer, said in her report.

Also at stake between the school the system and the company, said Adam Harrison, a lawyer representing Elco, is about $380,000 that Elco claims it is owed for work on the Brooklyn Park job.

He expressed hope of a speedy settlement with the school board on both issues and said that otherwise he will recommend that his client file a lawsuit concerning both issues. "Elco needs that Glendale job," he said. "They've counted on getting it."

Harrison said the school board violated Elco's due-process rights by apparently basing its decision only on Grot's recommendation.

"There are two sides to that story," Elco's lawyer said, arguing that Elco could not finish its work by the deadline because of delays at the beginning of the project. He said the company and the school board agreed on a $146,000 fee to accelerate the work if there were no other problems.

The construction sequence for the project prevented Elco from meeting the deadline, and the company said it needed an additional $380,000 to quickly finish the job, a claim that was denied by the architect supervising the Brooklyn Park project, Harrison said.

Darren Burns, an attorney for the school system, said Elco was not entitled to the money. "The bottom line is, we paid them a certain amount, an agreed-upon amount, to accelerate that job."

The dispute over the rejection of a low bid on a contract is the second in recent months for the county school board. The other involved leasing and servicing of new computers for county schools.

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